Firstly: an apology for such a long silence. It is for a very happy reason, though: in January Jane and I welcomed our first child, our beautiful daughter Ella! Climbing the learning curve as a new parent has taken some time away from cooking, but I’m getting right back into it now so expect to see more new material. So let’s get back to this Zest Test…
Thanks to a steady supply of grapes making their way through our kitchen I’d been on the lookout schiacciata recipes. So when Jane brought home a second hand copy of Maggie Beer’s “Maggie’s Table” I was chuffed to find just what I was looking for. Even better, Maggie’s source was an Italian family recipe — always the best way to find out little tips that make a dish special. One such tip in this recipe is the method of infusing rosemary flavour into the oil used to make the bread, which is a wonderful way to add full flavour without spoiling the texture with tough rosemary leaves.
The full recipe makes two breads with 1kg of grapes. With a mere 300g of grapes to work with I made just a single bread by halving the rest of the recipe. Although I could jam in a few more grapes (and would like to have) I think the full 500g would have been implausible!
As mentioned above, I love the use of rosemary infused oil, but the first time I made this recipe I found the flavour a little too subtle. So I increased the amount of minced rosemary from 1 tablespoon (in 90ml of oil) to 2 tablespoons. The end result was just perfect: the bread is permeated by aromatic flavour without being overpowered.
Finally, I cheated a bit at the kneading step, even though the recipe only calls for 5 minutes of work! (Did I mention my cute little 5 month old excuse for taking short cuts these days?). Knowing this is quite a sticky dough I kneaded it in the bowl, which is a little less effective but so much cleaner! The end result may have suffered slightly but I think it’s a worthy tradeoff.
Challenges and Tips
Kneading the grapes into the dough is tricky, but just do your best. If they get a little crushed that’s OK, they’ll release juices (read: flavour) into the dough. Just be aware that the dough will get stickier as you go. This is another reason that kneading the dough in a bowl makes life easier.
In fact, as I alluded to above, just fitting all the grapes in is a challenge. Just keep on pressing them in until you really can’t find a spare space! Having maximum, bursting sweetness in the end result is worth it.
Just look at that bread and tell me your mouth isn’t watering! The smell of rosemary, fresh bread and charred grapes is amazing and the taste is even better. The bottom of the bread develops a divine crust covered in caramelised grape juice that is a perfect bitter foil for the sweet grapes. This is a simple bread to make — especially with my kneading short cut — and if there’s one thing worth making fresh it has to be bread!